There are a bunch of different varieties of coffee on the market today. You probably know about some of the more popular regions producing coffee. But did you know Peruvian coffee has a rich history?
Peruvian coffee is cultivated in Peru and exported all around the world. Peru is a South American country with mountains, tropical rain forests, and coastal habitats. The climate of the tropical rain forests is what provides Peruvian coffee with its flavors and depth.
Peruvian coffee is complex and bold. This post will discuss Peru’s coffee history, coffee geography, grades, beans, flavors, brands, and facts. This is the ultimate guide to Peruvian coffee!
History of Peruvian Coffee
Coffee has been a large export in Peru for centuries. However, it is traded by farmers and sellers until it arrives at the coast for export. This has created an interesting history of Peruvian coffee.
4 Factors Affecting Coffee Farmers
In spite of the significant production volume in Peru, many farmers don't see the full benefit.
Here are some current and historical factors affecting many Peruvian coffee farmers:
- Unavailable or expensive storage options – Many farmers can’t store beans once they have been harvested. They must sell them as they are harvested because warehouses are unavailable, and other storage options are quite expensive.
- Unorganized trading – Buyers and sellers move from one village or town to the next until the beans arrive at the coast. This causes beans to be mixed and traded many times before reaching the coast.
- Low-paid prices – Because farmers are often the only ones selling coffee in a village, they have to accept the prices offered to them, especially without a way to store their harvest.
- Isolated and remote farms – Some Peruvian farmers travel on foot or by mule to the larger, more populated villages and towns. This means it can take longer for the coffee actually to get to the coast for export.
There is a long history of farming coffee beans for the indigenous peoples. Many have now joined fair-trade cooperatives to remedy the problems described above. With a cooperative, farmers can charge higher prices and have more protection against unfavorable trading.
A short timeline of Peru’s coffee history follows in this list:
- Mid-1700s: Coffee plants are first grown in Peru
- Mid-1700s to Late 1800s: Peru’s coffee production rises, but not much is exported
- Late 1800s: Asia’s coffee industry destroyed by disease; Europe looks for new exporters
- Early 1900s: Europe’s investment allows Peru’s coffee industry to expand and export
- After World War II: England sells the land it had been using to grow coffee in Peru to local farmers; autonomy is gained, but production is lost.
11 Coffee Regions of Peru (3 Sections)
Peru is divided into three sections: North, Central, South.
Within each of these areas, there are a few different regions distinct for growing coffee beans. These regions are important for different reasons, but they all contribute to Peru’s economy and exports.
Importance of the regions that are growing coffee in Northern Peru:
- Piura – Caturra, Catimor, and Typica are typically grown here; chocolate, caramel, and nutty flavors.
- Cajamarca – Cultivates Caturra, Typica, and Bourbon selections; produces sweet and acidic coffees
- Cutervo – Grows Catimor, Pache, Bourbon, Typica, and Pacamara varieties; notes of vanilla and molasses are prominent
- Amazonas – Caturra, Catimor, and Typica varieties are popular; fruity and sweet profiles.
- San Martin – Similar to the Amazonas region; it produces lots of coffee for its low elevation, nutty and chocolatey notes.
The following are regions that are growing coffee in Central Peru:
- Huánuco – Grows Caturra, Catimor and Typica varieties; orange and caramel notes
- Pasco – Low production due to climate; coffee has notes of citrus, floral, and fruit
- Junin – Caturra, Catimor, and Typica varieties are most common here; fruity, creamy, and acidic flavor notes
The three important regions growing coffee beans in Southern Peru are:
- Cuzco – Three main varieties are Caturra, Typica, and Bourbon; climate lends to high-quality coffees with chocolate and fruity notes.
- Ayacucho – Grows Caturra and Typica; newer region produces quality flavors of chocolate, cereals, black fruits, and caramels.
- Puno – Cultivates Caturra, Typica, and Bourbon coffee bean varieties; high quality, but low quantity.
How is Peruvian Coffee Graded?
Peruvian coffee follows a simple grading system based on where the beans are grown. This grading is similar to other countries, but Peru is unique to them.
There are two grading systems specifically for Peruvian coffees:
- Strictly hard beans – Grown at 1350 or more meters above sea level
- Hard beans – Grown at 1200 to 1350 meters above sea level
8 Types of Coffee Beans in Peru
There are many different types of coffee commonly grown on Peruvian farms. The most common cultivars are Typica and Caturra, while the most common coffee plant species is Arabica.
The following list is the different types of coffee cultivated across the coffee-producing regions of Peru:
- Mundo Novo
Nowadays, many of the coffee varieties are divided into the above cultivars. These cultivars can provide a plethora of benefits to both the farmers and consumers. Some are disease resistant, and others provide unique flavor profiles.
How is Peruvian Coffee Processed?
Peruvian coffee is usually dry processed. There is very little wet processing in the country. Generally, Peruvian coffee is processed in a few simple steps. Even though this sounds simple, the work is mainly done by hand, which takes lots of time and dedication.
The following list of steps walks you through how Peruvian coffee is processed:
- The cherries are harvested
- The pulp is removed from the cherries to expose the beans
- The beans are sun-dried
The sun drying is where the dry process gets its name.
Specialty Coffee in Lima, Peru
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Distinct Flavor Notes of Peruvian Coffee
The flavor of Peruvian coffee is highly dependent on the environment in which it is cultivated. Peru is special in that it has farmers at both low and high altitudes. And these regions produce very different flavor profiles, as was eluded to earlier. This is known as coffee terroir.
The following chart shows a side-by-side comparison of flavors present in coffee grown at different altitudes:
Flavor Notes of Coffee Grown on High Altitude Farms
- Mild acidity
- Medium body
- Notes of nuttiness
- Floral elements
- Slight fruit flavor
Flavor Notes of Coffee Grown on Low Altitude Farms
- Bright acidity
- Distinct floral scent
- Sweet and smooth
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Sensory Map of Peruvian Coffee
Listen to coffee industry experts from across Peru discuss the need and process of creating a sensory map of Peruvian coffee.
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4 Peruvian Coffee Brands
There are a few common Peruvian coffee brands. Today, many of the brands are fair trade, ethically sourced, organic, and many times specialty versions. Keep in mind you may pay extra for these qualities, but it is so worth it!
The following lists are current Peruvian coffee brands that come highly rated:
- Volcanica Coffee – Medium roast with floral notes and smokiness to balance the acidity
- Stone Street Coffee Company – Small batch medium roasted beans
- Mount Comfort Coffee – Smooth flavor, robust aroma, and medium roast
- AmazonFresh – Smooth and fragrant medium roast Arabica beans
Try these different brands to test out various types of Peruvian coffee. The above options come highly rated, and even though they are medium roasts, they still pack quite the punch in terms of flavor.
Our recommendation: Buy a bag of Peruvian coffee beans and drop in them in your coffee maker with built in grinder.
Peruvian Coffee Facts
In addition to everything you just read, there are some interesting facts about Peruvian coffee you may find interesting to know.
The following is a list of fast facts about Peruvian coffee:
- Coffee makes up 60% of Peru’s exports
- There are an estimated 110,000 coffee farmers in Peru
- Coffee in Peru accounts for 2% of the global coffee supply
- 15 to 20% of farmers are part of a co-op
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Peru Has Some Great Coffee!
You should try Peruvian coffee if you haven’t already! It has a history of producing a great coffee crop and has many varieties to suit all types of taste or flavor preferences. Whether it’s at your local coffee shop or ordering online, it is time to give Peruvian coffee a chance.
Dena Haines is a co-founder and blogger on EnjoyJava! – and is working to make it the best coffee blog in the world. She also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Click Like This. Dena is partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company she started with her husband, Bryan.